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Friday, 14 April, 2000, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Sellafield: We're safe
Sellafield
Workers would struggle to find jobs if Sellafield closed
The operators of the Sellafield nuclear re-processing plant in Cumbria will attempt to convince industry watchdogs over the next few days that they can run the plant safely.

British Nuclear Fuel Limited (BNFL) will present its response to a highly critical report on safety at the plant, which faces closure.

The plant is reeling from a number of scandals including sabotage by workers, falsified safety records and a nitric acid spill which injured two employees.


Sellafield facts
Main activity: Recycling used fuel from nuclear power stations world-wide
It is one of the world's two principal recycling plants (the other is France's La Hague)
Employs more than 10,000 people on site
Mox production is a major new business for the site
Japan was its largest customer for Mox
A survey commissioned for the BBC reveals that if the plant was to close it would be virtually impossible to replace the jobs in Cumbria.

The Sellafield plant provides 10,000 jobs - 10 times more than any other employer in Cumbria.

It also supports a further 40,000 jobs in the local economy.

But the survey, commissioned by Radio 5 Live, found if the plant was to close, a third of the 13 American companies based in the area would relocate.

There is a recognised need for the area to attract a wider range of employers - which has an unemployment rate of 6.9%.

Remoteness

But the companies questioned said they would place their business elsewhere if they had to take the decision again.

They feel the area offers poor access to markets and a feeling of remoteness as a business location.

The possible end of reprocessing at Sellafield could lead to the loss of more than 5,000 jobs.

The plant faces further scrutiny following claims by Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern that the British Government and the operators of Sellafield colluded when dealing with the republic's concerns about the plant.

His call came after the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary suggested that BNFL had influence over government replies to a complaint about the plant from Irish MP Mildred Fox.


Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern: Sellafield and government collusion
It is the latest in a catalogue of problems that has placed the future of the plant in doubt.

Five workers at the plant were sacked after it was discovered manual checks on fuel rods had been faked to save time.

A report by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) in February revealed safety records had been systematically falsified.

Japan, Germany and Switzerland all stopped Sellafield fuel shipments because of the safety concerns.

Police are investigating alleged sabotage at the plant after equipment was deliberately damaged.

The operators of the plant are also being prosecuted over a leak of concentrated nitric acid on 11 March last year, which injured two employees.

A number of Scandinavian countries, together with Ireland, are attempting to suspend work at Sellafield under an anti-pollution treaty.

They are calling for nuclear reprocessing to be suspended, claiming the discharge of tiny traces of radioactivity, which are pumped out from a waste pipe, can be detected in seaweed and shellfish as far away as Norway.

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